Missouri football: Can adding Oklahoma, Texas to the SEC help the Tigers?

Jul 22, 2021; Hoover, Alabama, USA; Missouri Tigers head coach Eliah Drinkwitz speaks to the media during SEC Media Days at Hyatt Regency Birmingham. Mandatory Credit: Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 22, 2021; Hoover, Alabama, USA; Missouri Tigers head coach Eliah Drinkwitz speaks to the media during SEC Media Days at Hyatt Regency Birmingham. Mandatory Credit: Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports /

As Texas and Oklahoma are set to make the move to the SEC from the Big 12, how can the Missouri football program benefit from conference realignment?

With Texas and Oklahoma joining the SEC as soon as next season, will the Missouri football team be able to turn this into a positive recruiting development? We’ve all heard the doomsayers. Their diatribe goes like this: Now that Oklahoma and Texas are joining the SEC, Missouri won’t have the SEC to use as a recruiting advantage in those states.

This is inarguably true.

However, I don’t think it matters. In fact, I think it gives the Tigers more sway with the types of players they usually pursue in Texas and Oklahoma.

Let me explain.

According to national recruiting service 247Sports.com, Missouri has had exactly zero Texas 5-star and only three Texas 4-star commits in the last 22 years. It should be noted that one of those 4-stars is RB Tavorus Jones, committed to the 2022 class.

Can you name the other two Texas 4-star recruits in the last 22 years? James Franklin is the easy one from 2010. The other is from the same class – Tristan Holt. That’s it. That all the 4 or 5-star recruits from Texas in over 20 years of Missouri football recruiting.

As for Oklahoma, Missouri has only had one 4 or 5-star recruit in the last 20 years: Javian Hester in the class of 2020

The point is, the Missouri football program doesn’t recruit the top Texas and Oklahoma talent for a reason. Regardless of what conference Texas or Oklahoma play in, they own their states. Kids across both states dream of playing for the big state school. Texas and Oklahoma can effectively target and get pretty much any 5 or 4-star player they want in their own states.

Of course, they don’t get all of them, but Texas and Oklahoma produce so much talent on the high school level that missing out on some top players doesn’t impact getting a wealth of in-state talent every year.

That’s not going to change when the Longhorns and Sooners join the SEC. Neither will the Missouri football program’s proven strategy of targeting low 4-star and high 3-star talent in both states.

Texas and Oklahome can take the top 20 players in their states every year but it will still leave dozens, if not over a hundred, really talented players left to other schools.

Those players still want to play in front of their families. They want to be on TV. And some carry a chip about being passed over by the Longhorns or Sooners and want to show those schools what they missed.

Those are exactly the type of kids the Missouri football program can target now. Eli Drinkwitz and staff will be in those living rooms saying, “Sorry Coach Sarkisian doesn’t think you’re even worth a scholarship offer. We think you’re a star. How would you like to play in the SEC against him every year to show him what he passed on?”

That’s a strong sales message.

Before you think that won’t be good enough to elevate the Mizzou program, let me run some 3-star players from Texas past you who went to Mizzou. Tell me if these types of players are good enough to make Mizzou a consistent threat in the SEC.

Chase Daniel, Xavier Gooden, Mitch Morse, Marcus Murphy, Russell Hansbrough, J’Mon Moore, Nick Bolton, Jacquies Smith, Ziggy Hood, and Josh Bledsoe.

Each of these guys made it to the NFL. Only Chase Daniel was a Top 50 player in the state of Texas the year of his recruiting.

And this list doesn’t include 2-stars from Texas like Michael Egnew, Sean Witherspoon, and Denario Alexander, each of whom played in the NFL, too.

There’s also this: Texas and Oklahoma used to be able to say, “We are the biggest dogs in the Big 12, which means you’ll be in the College Playoff all the time competing for a National Championship.”

That may not be true anymore for Oklahoma or Texas after they move to the SEC. Even if the playoff expands to 12 teams and the SEC puts 4 teams in every year, you still have to be better than Alabama, Georgia, Florida, LSU, Auburn, etc. to even get out of the conference.

It’s just my opinion, but that sounds a lot harder than running the Oklahoma State, Iowa State, Baylor gauntlet.

Oklahoma and Texas are going to have rougher roads to the national championship once they enter the SEC

Once these two become less attractive for that reason, it opens the door for the competition to come in and recruit players out of those states. That doesn’t mean Mizzou has a better shot at the playoff, but by leaving the Big 12, Oklahoma and Texas are demonstrably further away than they used to be.

Another factor working in Missouri’s favor is that the rest of the Big 12 schools just became significantly less attractive to recruits in Texas and Oklahoma. The marquee teams are gone. The Big 12 looks like a hollowed out husk when compared with the SEC.

Any shine the Big 12 has, as it stands now or even if it adds from the AAC, is significantly dimmed going forward. That’s harsh, but unavoidably true. The Big 12 still has great basketball, but football has taken a near mortal wound with the loss of Texas and Oklahoma.

That means recruits, not just in Texas and Oklahoma, but across the plains states, are more likely to look at the SEC schools if they want TV exposure, NIL money, and a chance at a National Championship.

With the Big 12 taking a step back – and the SEC taking a leap forward – it’s like a two touchdown swing in one play. In regard to how attractive SEC schools look to recruits versus Big 12 schools now, it’s not even a contest.

And speaking of the Big 12 taking one step back and the SEC one forward, take a look at this tweet from Sam Khan Jr. at The Athletic:

Big 12 commish Bob Bowlsby estimates that the remaining eight Big 12 schools could lose $14 million per year in TV revenue upon Oklahoma and Texas’ departure. Bowlsby says Big 12 distributes roughly $28 million in TV $$ per school. OU/Texas = about 50% of that.

That is devastating.

That impacts every aspect of the football programs in the remaining Big 12 schools – facilities, recruiting, marketing, coaches salaries … everything. And Memphis, Cincinnati, UCF, and BYU don’t replace that. Not by a long shot. Now that money, and much more when the next SEC contract is negotiated, will be going to SEC teams.

Recruits will start seeing the difference immediately.

Those Texas and Oklahoma recruits – a lot of really good players – who go to Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, Baylor, and TCU, now see those places as a step below the SEC with the loss of revenue and star power. That puts them up for grabs, much more so than in the past.

With more talent in the recruiting pool in those states, Drinkwitz and staff can say, “You want to play at Oklahoma State or TCU and not get to face Texas, Oklahoma, or A&M? Why would a player like you not want to compete against the best?”

It’s a good question that Mizzou and other SEC Teams will ask every Big 12 recruit they’re competing for.

Finally, I don’t think Lincoln Riley nor Steve Sarkisian will be coaching in the SEC for very long.

Lincoln Riley has earned a reputation as a QB whisperer and looks to be the most sought after college coach by a host of NFL teams in the next year or two. Yes, he just signed an enormous contract extension last year. Believe me, the NFL doesn’t care.

I know Riley has said and done the right things that indicate he’ll be there through his current 2025 deal. I’ll believe it when I see it. If the Dallas Cowboys come calling, it’s hard to believe Texas-born Riley would pass.

As for Sarkisian, I just don’t think he’s the guy. His head coaching record is 46-35. He’s at his third school as a head coach after a second stint as Alabama Offensive Coordinator. He’s bounced around the NFL and NCAA too much to be considered a reliable blue chip coach.

And believe me, that’s what Texas needs and expects. The pressure on Sarkisian to perform when Texas gets to the SEC will be monumental. He’ll be on the hot seat immediately, and I don’t think he lasts more than three years in Austin.

Coaches on the hot seat aren’t attractive to recruits and their families. Coaches who look like they’ll be lured to the NFL every off-season also create instability.

The Missouri football program has stability with its head coach

Drinkwitz, on the other hand, might be on the road to having the most job security of any head coach outside of Nick Saban. Since he arrived, Mizzou has gained as much positive momentum as any school in the SEC.

Continuity in the coaching staff is huge in recruiting. I don’t think Texas or Oklahoma will have that over the next couple years. Missouri has stability by the boatload in Drinkwitz.

Oklahoma and Texas used to sell getting to the National Playoff to recruits. Being in the Big 12 made that a believable pitch. That advantage is gone once they get to the SEC. That’s a good thing for Mizzou, too.

By adding Texas and Oklahoma, the SEC has also added an ocean of talent to the recruiting pool. More quality recruits, and a weaker Big 12, means that Mizzou has more options, a stronger brand in the region, and a lot more to offer than the remaining Big 12 schools.

That wasn’t necessarily true before the move by Texas and Oklahoma. It’s a certainty now. Combine all these factors and the future looks brighter for Mizzou recruiting, not darker, as other pundits suggest.

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